This is a What’s My Scene post from Tiggy Johnson.

It started on Twitter. Someone said something about wanting to submit to a certain type of publication. Someone else mentioned competitions. Others said ‘I should, I should’ and ‘me too’. Then someone said the D word: Dare. And so the first goals of The Subcommittee were made. Not that we were called that then.

The Subcommittee formed in March 2011 as a closed group on Facebook. It was a place where a group of fourteen writers from three different states (Qld, Vic, WA) could share writing goals and other writing related thoughts. Our first sets of goals were similar, based on the Twitter dare. Submit to two of the certain-type publications and enter two competitions, over the following three or four months.

It was great. We had each other’s support (you can do it; what’s the worst that can happen?, let’s do it together) as well as feeling accountable for following through: we’d said we’d do it, so we’d be letting others down if we didn’t. Not that it was a problem, we were all so fired up as a result of the group forming and having our ‘safe’ space that we would probably have achieved anything.

After the first deadline, we reflected. Some of us preferred to set writing goals rather than submitting goals (so many words per week, so many stories or poems in six months); reading goals, and other writing related goals (re-writing, attending workshops/seminars, self-promotion). We each made our own set, with our own deadlines, and posted them to the group. Accountability was still important.

Meanwhile, we shared all kinds of ideas. We’d let each other know if we had a piece accepted, and shared news of non-acceptances. We talked about what we were reading, asked each other for kicks up the butt when we needed a push, shared links to inspiring articles online, and our experiences of response times of various publications. We also sent journals to each other, and of course, we swapped pieces for critique.

We were rocking. The group’s energy was fantastic. Between the fourteen of us, it seemed like at least one person always had good news: an acceptance, a finished draft, a ticked-off goal, something. It was easy to feel good, even when we had less-good news. In fact, a ‘no thanks’ (aka rejection) became an opportunity to send a piece somewhere else. And another reason to eat chocolate.

Things have changed over time. After a few three to six month rounds, we seemed to stop sharing (setting?) goals. We still shared news, and talked about various opportunities, experiences, and at least most of us seemed to still be working on our own writing. We all learned more about various publications: how long this one takes to respond; how long to wait for a response, what styles/themes/genres to send where, and sometimes a few of us would decide to have a go at the same opportunity, like when we first formed. Occasionally, someone would ask for a push, and others responded.

Then, one day someone shared some personal news. Non-writing news. Difficult news. Responses came quickly. Supportive, sweet, kind words. Then someone else did it, and sweet, kind words again came quickly, and even before I had my own non-writing, difficult news I needed to share, but not with my entire Facebook feed, I knew we’d become friends, and that we had created this amazing safe space to share whatever it was we needed to share.

I suppose I never expected it to come to that. Particularly as I’ve never met half the Subcommittee members in real life, and also because it’s been a different experience to other writers’ groups I’ve been part of. But I’m glad it did. The group has become much more than any of us could have asked. We still share writing news: acceptances, opportunities to send a piece somewhere new, closing dates, competitions, inspiring articles, and lately some members have again posted new writing goals to the group. We’ve grown together, evolved if you like, and in our safe space, we’ve discovered we can ask of the group whatever we need from it at a certain point in time, and receive a supportive response. And we do. I wouldn’t be without it.

Tiggy Johnson’s poems have appeared in Cordite, Quadrant, Audio Overland II, Going Down Swinging, and in Black Inc’s Best Australian Poems 2012. Her poetry collection First taste was published in 2010 and That zero year, co-written with Andrew Phillips, in 2012. She is currently writing her family history in poetry.

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